Phase Two: The Personal Contact Phase
An officer’s decision to arrest for DUI involves three steps: observing the vehicle in motion, observing the driver during a personal contact phase, and administering field sobriety tests. Evidence is collected at each stage. If, after conducting all three phases, the officer believes probable cause exists that you are impaired, you will then be arrested. Probable cause is a flexible, common-sense standard. It merely requires that the facts available to the officer would ‘warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief,’ Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 162 (1925), that you are impaired; it does not demand any showing that such a belief be correct or more likely true than false. A ‘practical, nontechnical’ probability that incriminating evidence is involved is all that is required. Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 176 (1949).”
To collect evidence during the personal contact phase, an officer is trained to:
- observe and interview the driver; and
- observe the driver’s exit and walk when the driver is asked to step from the vehicle.
When observing and interviewing the driver, NHTSA offers the following clues for the officer to observe and record at this point in the stop:
- ” Sight-bloodshot eyes, soiled clothing, fumbling fingers, alcohol containers, drugs or drug paraphernalia, bruises, bumps or scratches, unusual actions
- ” Hearing-slurred speech, admission of drinking, inconsistent responses, abusive language, unusual statements
- ” Smell-alcoholic beverages, marijuana, cover up odors like breath sprays, unusual odors
It is up to you to prevent an over-eager officer from determining that your actions are caused by alcohol impairment and not normal day-to-day activities. One way to do this is to have your documents in order. No matter how dexterous, some officers will observe your attempt to withdraw your paperwork as inadequate. We routinely see reports that say:
- fumbled for license;
- was slow and deliberate in looking for insurance;
- unable to produce license and registration;
- could not get his/her license from wallet;
While these “personal contact phase” observations may not be determinative of impairment, they go a long way in establishing the officer’s decision to place you under arrest for operating a vehicle impaired. Here is what you can do during the personal contact phase to avoid an unnecessary arrest.
Here is a common sense tip: just have your license, insurance information and vehicle registration in a place that makes them easily accessible. Prior to the officer’s approach, have these items close at hand, so that you can provide them upon request. If you are arrested, you attorney will make use of the fact that you produced these documents quickly. Practice taking your license out of your wallet. If it takes more than five seconds, make it easier to get to. Put you license and insurance information in an envelope near the drivers compartment. Officers are understandably concerned about their safety and will get suspicious if you dive toward the glove compartment prior to their vehicle approach.
At the conclusion of the personal contact phase, both you and the officer have a decision to make. The officer must determine if he or she is going to remove you from the vehicle to take standardized field sobriety tests, and you must determine if you will take the tests. As DUI attorney Bruce Kapsack quips, “If they ask you to get out of the car, they’ve already made their decision, so why give them more evidence to use against you?” Taking practical steps to be prepared for an officer hell-bent on arresting people for drunk driving, can save you the embarrassment and expense of a DUI arrest.
Attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio. He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself Dayton’s choice for drunk driving defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at (937) 318-1384 or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). If you need assistance after hours, call the 24/7 DUI Hotline at (937) 776-2671. You can have DaytonDUI at your fingertips by downloading the DaytonDUI Android App or have DaytonDUI sent directly to your mobile device by texting DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500. Follow DaytonDUI on Facebook, @DaytonDUI on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pheed and Pintrest or get RSS of the Ohio DUI blog. You can email CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.com or visit his office at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324. “All I do is DUI defense.”
Find more about the personal contact phase at the following links: